Despite the Carl Gustav’s age, it’s actually more versatile than many high-tech weapons, making it useful in tomorrow’s conflicts. In the new “hybrid warfare” pioneered by Russian forces in the Crimea, armies could face “little green men” (paramilitary troops) one moment and armored vehicles the next. The M3 will be able to counter both. Not bad for a 70-year-old weapon.
Developed by Bofors (now Saab), the Carl Gustav is a lightweight, man-portable recoilless rifle. Recoilless rifles are like a cross between an artillery gun and a bazooka: While they have propellant at the base of the projectile like a rocket, the propellant doesn’t burn beyond the barrel, meaning the projectile flies unpowered like a bullet or artillery shell. Unlike artillery, propellant gasses are directed backwards, counteracting the weapon’s recoil and making it “recoilless”. The weapon is referred to as a “rifle” due to the spiral rifling in the barrel, which stabilizes the projectile.
The U.S. Army fielded a number of recoilless rifles after World War II, in calibers from 57-millimeter to 106-millimeter. The Army saw these rifles as anti-tank weapons meant to counter the T-55 and T-62 tanks of the Soviet Army. The Army retired these weapons when Dragon and TOW anti-tank guided missiles came on the scene.